While the top of the American Athletic Conference continues to look solid, the bottom continues to take losses. Memphis, Tulane, South Florida and Central Florida all lost to mid-major teams, and Tulsa lost to South Carolina in the Paradise Jam finals one week after getting the league’s best win so far, over Wichita State. Here’s how the conference stacks up after the first full week of action.
1. Cincinnati Bearcats (5-0, AP No. 24, LW: 3)
Last week: vs. Bowling Green (W 83-50), vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (W 99-50) vs. Southeast Louisiana (W 64-49)
The win vs. Southeast Louisiana was the first time any team had held the Bearcats to under 80 points this season, and they still scored 1.1 points per possession. Farad Cobb has made 17 of 30 three-point attempts (57 percent) and has given Cincinnati a threat from deep it didn’t have last season. Cincy has been dominant, but it hasn’t played a team ranked about 200, per Kenpom.com. KenPom ranks the Bearcats 13th overall, UConn’s schedule has been just as weak and Cincy is dominating the weak teams in impressive fashion.
This week: 11/27 vs. Nebraska in Brooklyn
2. Connecticut Huskies (3-0, AP No. 19, LW: 1)
Last week: vs. Furman (W 83-58)
The Huskies rolled through their first three buy games, scoring at least 83 points in all and allowing no more than 66. Jalen Adams had his first career double-digit game against Furman, netting 14 points off the bench, along with six assists. The first test will come Wednesday in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Michigan will challenge Connecticut’s defense, but Kevin Ollie’s squad has a real chance if it can dominate in the paint against a weak Michigan frontcourt.
This week: 11/25 vs. Michigan in the Bahamas
3. SMU Mustangs (3-0, AP No. 25, LW: 2)
Last week: at Stanford (W 85-70), vs. Yale (W 71-69)
November road wins are tough, especially without the head coach. Give Tim Jankovich a lot of credit for getting his team to play so crisply in the first road game without Larry Brown. It’s a good win, but Stanford looked bad and looks to be in for a long year. Had SMU been eligible for postseason play, this wouldn’t be a win the selection committee would use as a plus. The Mustangs used a 14-2 run to overcome a 10-point second-half deficit to beat a sneaky good Yale squad.
This week: 11/29 vs. Brown
4. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (4-1, LW: 4)
Last week: vs. Ohio (W 90-88), vs. Indiana State (W 67-59), vs. South Carolina (L 83-75)
Tulsa allowed 80 or more points twice all of last season. In five games this season, it had allowed 80-plus three times. Allowing opponents to shoot 39 percent doesn’t help. But the Golden Hurricane is still 4-1 because of a much-improved offense. It has scored at least 75 points four times this year after scoring 75-plus just five times all of last year. Shaquille Harrison is off to a monster start, averaging 23.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while shooting 51 percent.
This week: 11/28 vs. Arkansas-Little Rock
5. Temple Owls (1-3, LW: 5)
Last week: vs. Minnesota (W 75-70), vs. Butler (L 74-69), vs. Utah (L 74-68)
Temple is a classic case of “better than the record suggests.” The Owls have played three top-33 teams in close games and second-half comebacks fell just short in the losses to Butler and Utah. Only UNC shot over 40 percent from the field vs. Temple, but on the flip side, Temple has yet to shoot over 40 percent this season. Sound familiar? One cause for concern was Utes center Jakob Poeltl’s dominant 32-point, 11-rebound, three-block day.
This week: 11/29 vs. Delaware
6. Memphis Tigers (2-2, LW: 6)
Last week: vs. Grambling State (W 83-65) vs. UT-Arlington (L 68-64)
UT-Arlington is proving to be a tough out, but that’s a bad loss even for a young team and it doesn’t quiet the doubts surrounding Josh Pastner. The record is better than Temple’s, but Temple doesn’t have a bad loss, and no team should get rewarded for beating, or even playing, Grambling State. To top it off, the Tigers are shooting 21 percent from three.
This week: 11/27 vs. Ohio State in Miami, 12/1 vs. Louisiana Tech
7. Houston Cougars (2-0, LW: 7)
Last week: vs. Prairie View A&M (W 110-69), vs. Florida A&M (W 97-52)
The Cougars’ overhauled roster is clicking, especially on offense, where they have made 65 percent of their twos and 42 percent of their threes. But take it with a grain of salt until it plays a good team. The Panthers and Rattlers are two of the four worst teams in the country, per KenPom. Houston will play three more sub-300 teams in the nonconference portion of its schedule. The talent is there to contend for the NCAA tournament, but the nonconference schedule (second-worst nationally) will hinder Houston.
This week: 11/28 vs. Louisiana-Monroe, 11/30 vs. UT-Rio Grande Valley
8. UCF Knights (1-2, LW: 8)
Last week: vs. UC-Irvine (L 61-60), vs. UNC-Greensboro (W 65-54)
Mamadou N’Diaye won the battle of the 7-and-a-half-footers, but the Knights have played all season without B.J. Taylor, the leading scorer from a season ago. Tennessee transfer A.J. Davis has been a steady scorer in his place, but Taylor is a better three-point threat. UCF is also shooting just 61 percent from the free throw line and ranked 325th nationally a season ago at 64.4 percent.
This week: 11/28 at Miami (Ohio)
9. East Carolina Pirates (2-2, LW: 9)
Last week: at No. 15 California (L 70-62), at San Diego State (L 79-54)
The West Coast swing didn’t go so well for the Pirates, who hung with the loaded Golden Bears before SDSU ran them out of the gym. The recurring defensive issues are a concern, but ECU needs B.J. Tyson, last season’s leading scorer, to right the ship offensively. He’s shooting just 15 percent and averaging 7.3 points per game.
This week: 11/26 vs. Arkansas-Little Rock in Las Vegas, 12/1 vs. Florida Atlantic
10. South Florida Bulls (1-4, LW: 11)
Last week: vs. George Washington (L 73-67) vs. Boston University (L 78-66), vs. Albany (W 63-61)
The Bulls started the season with four straight losses, and three of the opponents were beatable. Losing to top-150 mid-majors like BU and NJIT isn’t the end of the world in a rebuild, but it’s not going to help the conference either. USF knocked off Albany, another top-150 team that returned eight players from an NCAA tournament team. Freshman guard Jahmal McMurray is already turning out to be a major steal, leading the team with 15.8 points per game. Gonzaga transfer Angel Nunez has played well in a starting role too.
This week: 11/27 vs. No. 1 Kentucky in Miami, 11/29 vs. Savannah State
11. Tulane Green Wave (2-2, LW: 10)
Last week: at Southern (L 90-82), vs. Appalachian State (W 78-46)
The buzzer-beating loss to Alabama A&M was one thing, but giving up 90 points to a SWAC team that was one of the 30 worst offensive teams in the country last year is another. Southern hadn’t scored 90 against a Division I team since Feb. 8, 2014. Going 2-2 against four 200-or-worse teams is a last-place resume. Even in a transition year with a lot of young players, this is a major disappointment. One silver lining is that LSU transfer Malik Morgan is finding his scoring groove after going 21 months without playing in a game.
This week: 11/26 vs. Mercer, 11/27 vs. Stephen F. Austin, 11/29 vs. Liberty (all games in Nashville)